Continuing on our You’ve Got Mail tour through the Upper West Side, Jenn and I decided to incorporate Ocean Grill into our Restaurant Week plans. I’m a big fan of Blue Water Grill, going there often for their great brunch deal and live jazz downstairs on Sundays, so I was curious to visit one of their sister B.R. Guest restaurants. I’d taken a look at the Restaurant Week menu in advance to see what struck my fancy and was initially confused as the selections seemed to not be available on the regular menu. I realize that alterations happen from time to time, but this seemed a bit extreme. Also, there wasn’t even a sushi option, something for which the restaurant is known. I was quite relieved when we arrived to find a completely different menu from what was posted online, the contents of this menu matching the regular menu options. Whew!
For my appetizer, I chose to go with the chestnut gnocchi and braised short rib, which was served with roasted butternut squash and a truffled parmesan broth. I like gnocchi in general, but oftentimes find it too heavy, too potatoe-y, or too rubbery, one. Ocean Grill’s version was a refreshing change. The portion size was on the smaller side, which was nice, and the gnocchi was a soft, melt in your mouth consistency that I’ve yet to encounter which left me wanting for more. The chestnut flavor proved to be just the strength needed to work with gnocchi. The short rib was a very small element of the dish, serving more as a feathery accompaniment to add just the right amount of saltiness to the dish. It was nice that the meat flavor was not so overpowering, and the squash added just a touch of sweetness. My friend went with the New England style clam chowder. They brought it out in a separate cup, with only the fresh pumpernickel croutons adorning the bottom of the soup bowl. They poured it for her table side, which ensured the croutons weren’t overwhelmingly soggy. Very nice attention to detail.
For main course, we both elected to go with the ginger glazed sustainable salmon, which was paired with an edamame-shitake risotto and a citrus-lemongrass broth. I somewhat hesitantly inquired to our server as to whether or not it was possible to still have the salmon without the mushrooms somehow due to my allergy. The chef was amazingly accommodating, preparing the risotto for my main just with the edamame. Not only did they accommodate me on the dish, but the entire meal, there was a “mushroom allergy” tag on each of my plates, and it was noted in the system and captured on the bill. Their food was impressive enough on their own, but their focus on ensuring my safety and comfort through the meal was amazingly thorough. The dish was perfect – the salmon was fresh and flaky and the risotto complemented it nicely. The broth was a nice touch – more subtle than a full-on sauce, yet the laste of the citrus and the lemongrass each came through distinctly.
We both knew when it came to the dessert, it was go chocolate or go home. The menu promised a chocolate butterscotch tart, paired with an espresso toffee chip ice cream. What we weren’t expecting was a virtual chocolate sampling platter. Not that we minded. The tart and ice cream were topped of by a large crispy chocolate triangle. And to the side, there was a nice rectangle portion of chocolate mousse (more akin to milk chocolate than dark). The espresso and toffee flavors were just what was needed to mix it up just enough. Perfect. To top it off, they even sent us out mini-chocolate cheesecake squares! This sweet tooth was more than satisfied.
I also couldn’t resist trying their special drink for Restaurant Week – The Haitian Hope. It was island rum punch with coconut water, orange bitters, and lemon. $6 of the $12 for the drink went towards Chefs for Humanity, an organization working to raise funds for food relief in Haiti. It was refreshing to see them making a generous gesture in the midst of what is essentially already a generous gesture towards the city by participating in Restaurant Week to begin with. Kudos. They even sent us each out with a doggie bag of cranberry nut bread. A three course dinner and breakfast. Not bad at all! I’m looking forward to coming back when we hit spring. Can’t wait to sit outside and try their version of Blue Water’s Sunday brunch. I will definitely be back. Highly recommend!
Ocean Grill – 384 Columbus Avenue (at West 87 Street) – (212) 579-2300